Thursday, October 23, 2014

2014 Wrap-Up

Now that I've been sitting on my rear end for a week and half, foraying into the 40 degree drizzle that's been a constant for the past week only for the occasional Masters or easy three mile run, it's time to digest this season. (Especially since I found out that next season starts next week, not November 1st like I thought.)

My bike and run training went amazing this year. I missed very few sessions and laid down some amazing times, even on the Tinman course. Swim training was a bit more frustrating. Coach Karen and I put down an extra swim a week this year but my times even in training stayed more stagnant than they ever have during a season before. She DID lower the distance of each swim so that overall volume wasn't much higher, and maybe that had something to do with it. I don't know.

Even though they aren't an "official" race, the first time I really got to see if all the early-season training paid off was at the Time Trial series. When I set a PR at the FIRST ONE, I was pretty excited. I managed to PR two or three more times despite never tapering or resting for them, and that and my training rides out in Tupper Lake had me feeling good about my bike. (And hey, winning "Best Dressed" thanks to my Betty bike kits didn't hurt. ;-D )

Tinman was next. Despite the goggle disaster in the swim and 85 degree sun on the run, I actually had my best Half execution ever. (Aside from my meltdown on miles 2-5 on the run). The fact that this Polar Bear managed to eek out a tiny PR despite all that had me pretty happy despite being 10 minutes off my 6:40 goal.

After Tinman's ridiculous weather, started practicing heat training. Proof I'm Coeur material: My ass sweats hearts.

Then it was Mini-Tri time. I did manage a PR, but only one. The first year I didn't set and break PRs at least three or so times. My times stayed at 1:18 - a result I only dreamed off just last season, but frustrating in its consistency.

Caught in pea-sized hail on a run - SO unusual for this part of the country!

Then came Big George. I just wrote about it so I won't rehash too much, but I let the tough conditions completely tank my head game, and that was the biggest loss.

An embarrassingly small portion of my S/B/R wardrobe. Doesn't even include any of my Coeur gear.

It was nice to be able to end on a high note with the PR at Mohawk Hudson. Sonja talked about "gazelles" vs. "bulldogs" in her Kona race report, and that's made me realize that I am definitely a "gazelle" athlete. I find joy and execute best when everything is coming together in contrast to being able to pull out the grit on tough days. Definitely something I need to work on since the biggest thing that leads to "bulldog days,"the weather, is completely uncontrollable.

So, not sure where that leaves me for 2015 after such a shaky 2014 season that vacillated between PRs and disastrous races. I do know some things:

1.) As mentioned in my Big George recap, I'm glad to be taking a break from focusing on 70.3 racing. I'll definitely do at least one as a run-through for IMLP and maybe another coasting on my IM fitness like I did in 2012, but in either case it won't be an "A" race.

2.) I need to work on finding my Inner Bulldog. It's a bit harder being BOP because I can't just focus on chasing the podium instead. A definite keep will definitely be to figure out what can drive me on tough days.

3.) I also need to work on my swim in a major way. The new Masters class has definitely helped already despite that we only swim about a mile each week. All the focus on form (and being forced to do things I hate like Single Arm Drills, and kicking with no fins, etc.) and getting corrections from the deck (especially when I get tired and start to fall apart) is REALLY awesome, even if right now my form is SO broken down I look more like a drowning brick than a swimmer. Plus it's much more fun to swim with friends. I even have a swim buddy - we always share a lane and she's just a TEENY bit faster than me, which helps to push me to keep up with her.

And also, another changes as well that I'll get into in my next entry. Hope everyone's enjoying off-season!

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Mohawk Hudson Half Marathon Race Report

(a.k.a Dreams DO Come True!)


Going into the race, I knew that a lot of things were coming together - my training times were good, the course is one of the fastest in the country, and the weather was forecasted to be PERFECT run PR weather.

The pieces were all there, it would be up to me to put them all together. In other words, if I DIDN'T PR, it was all on me. This was both good and bad. Good because for the first A race in a year and a half, weather wouldn't be an issue, bad because No Excuses.

So, Dr. Z. and I headed down Saturday afternoon for packet pickup in downtown Albany - a rare treat for this city-loving girl. Got my bib, and walked around the expo a bit. Just was I was about to leave, a super-cute pink hoodie WITH SWEATERPAWS caught my eye. They actually had an XS, so it was MINE.

Then it was time to mow down and P.F. Changs (my FAVORITE) before heading back to the hotel. Pinned my number to my run tank and it was time to hit the hay.

Race Morning:

Ah, the joy of foot races. Relatively late 8:30 start and no transition to set up (or body marking/getting chip/etc.) meant we woke up at a relatively decent hour and still had time to have a leisurely breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts. (My carb-heavy go-to breakfast for footraces of a plain bagel with butter and large coffee.)

Dr. Z. dropped me off at the start and drove off to the finish line in Albany. (The joys of a point-to-point race.) I immediately got into the long line to use the Porta-Potty and spent the rest of the time jogging around while freezing my ass off. (It was about 38 degrees.)

We got all lined up, and in the middle of chatting with a couple other women, we suddenly started moving - no air horn or anything. (And I know it wasn't just me missing it because someone else said, "Oh, we're going?") I actually liked it. It was like, boom, race time.

Mile One:

So we get going and the first thing I find out is that I've seeded myself too far back. It's really hard to pass people because we're on a narrow bike path. Sigh. I end up passing people by going on the grass. I keep telling myself that it's an excellent way to ensure I don't go out too fast. Just as I get some space and get in a groove, my shoe comes untied despite double-knotting it in the morning. I briefly entertain the thought of just running with it like that, at least until the crowd thins out, but five notifications from people that my shoe is untied in as many minutes convinced me to haul over to the side and fix it. I then had to re-pass everyone I had spent the first half mile passing. Sigh. This was my slowest mile by far, but I didn't really freak out - I was in a good groove and had 12.1 miles to make it up.

Miles 2-4 :

Got behind some perfect girls to draft off of. They were running high 8:30s/low 8:40s, but the heart rate and my RPE was okay, so I stayed with it. I couldn't believe they were chit-chatting. I remember thinking, "I'm in the 170's, which is technically Z4 for me, and this is their CONVERSATIONAL PACE?!?!"

Also dumped my hoodie at the first aid station - I was warming up fast. (Luckily it was an old hoodie I knew I might have to trash if Dr. Z. didn't meet up with me in time.)

Miles 5-8:

At the second aid station, I decided to dump some water on my head (yes, although it was still only 40's) and managed to nail someone who (unbeknownst to me) was drafting off me. Oops. I honestly had no idea she was there. Dr. Z finally caught up to me and could see from where I already was on the course that I was having a good day.

I also had latched on to a new group. One of the little things that came together for this race is I always had people going the perfect pace to draft off of and drag me along. It was in here I started noticing my heart rate starting to climb past acceptable levels - I told myself I couldn't go into Z5 until the last 5K. I had a couple slow half-mile splits in here, which made me a bit nervous. My average pace also went down from 8:35 (after a very fast downhill half mile) up to 8:42. Usually still a PR pace, but I could tell this course was LONG. (Thank God for Garmin!).

Miles 9 and 10:

This is where it started hurting. My splits were BARELY staying within acceptable numbers - I was seeing a lot of 4:20s and 4:22s even with my HR up around 175. I dumped off my sleeves and gloves to Dr. Z. at several points.

A couple particularly great action shots Dr. Z. got.
Miles 10-13.3:

Once again, I latched on to a new group, well person for the last 5K. I had actually started sitting on her shoulder at mile nine somewhere and was just trying to hang on. She was going just a bit fast for me, but this late in the race it was go time: Let's pick it up, and see what we have left under the hood. As we passed the Mile Ten marker, Dr. Z. pretty much said that to me. And I went with her. It hurt bad.

During this time, I couldn't rub the brain cells together to look at splits, but my AVERAGE came down from 8:42 to 8:37.

I'm in my "head down and focused" mode, but the beast in front of me is awesomely deep in her Pain Cave.
I just held on. Around mile 12ish she said something, I forget what, and I replied, "Let's finish this thing!". We came on through the bike path, and hit the final turn. I did think enough to hit my lap button at mile 13.1 - something like a 1:53.

First time I've been able to get the "rippling shredded muscles" effect in a photo.
The last .3 seemed to take FOREVER because of the course being long. I kept looking for that damn finish line after I hit 13.1. I could see the clock saying 1:54 and I just SPRINTED through to ensure not only an unofficial "Garmin 13.1" PR, but an official PR. As it turns out, I managed to PR by almost a minute even by GUN time.

Came on through the finish and amazingly DIDN'T need Medical for once. (How disappointing. ;-D) I DID use my inhaler, but that's about it. I was SO, SO happy with my performance. I grabbed a chocolate milk and then through myself down for my first-ever immediate-post-race massage. (More like a very light leg-rubbing, which is all the quads could handle at that point anyway.) Another nice touch that they have at the finish line was a change tent.

What does one wear after taking down a 7-year-old PR? ALL THE PINK!

There isn't much to say about a race where everything big (weather, course, training) and small (people to run with, perfect breakfast) comes together. I do love this race as I love a fast, flat course so am hoping to do the Full marathon next year and set another PR.

Time: 1:54 (8:37 pace over 13.29 miles)
28/130 AG
108/510 Women
238/761 Overall

Onto the off-season!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

2014 Big George 70.3 Race Report

So. Over a month ago, I raced my fifth 70.3. On what I thought would be a fast swim course (much better sighting and less chop than Tinman), a fast, flat bike course, and a hilly run course. As it turned out, not so much. Except for the hilly run course.

(Ugh, the GOOD races are SO much easier to write about...)

Saturday: So Dr. Z and I packed all our (okay, mostly MY since I was the one racing) in the car and headed down to Lake George. I was immediately put on edge by the hordes of cars and pedestrians in this very much a tourist town for the holiday weekend. Reason #454381 why I don't understand why the race directors moved the race to Labor Day weekend a few years ago. We go to packet pickup (lots of swag - Yay! Cheap t-shirt instead of cute baseball hoodies this year - Boo!), check in the bike (one thing the race does RIGHT - one less thing to do in the morning), and finally check into the hotel. I call Coach Karen and we arrange to pick her up at her hotel and head out for dinner.

For the life of me I can't remember the name of the restaurant we ate at, but it was DELICIOUS! (I'm one of these people that although I have a "pre-race meal" that I always cook if I'm at home, I really CAN eat whatever the night before a race.) After that, we went back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the evening filling water bottles of Skratch for pre-race, bike, and run. Since it was an early start, we went to bed early and I actually slept pretty well.

Pre-Race: We were up at Ugly O'Clock for the 7 a.m. start, even with having everything laid out, bottles filled, and bike checked. I got dressed, nuked my usual eggs and rice that I had brought with me (hooray hotel fridge and microwave), and we headed out to the Dunkin Donuts that was supposedly right down the highway on the way to the race. We finally figure out it's a "Self Serve" Dunkin' in a HESS. Nastiest coffee EVER. THANKS, Google Maps. Lesson learned.

We get there and after some drama with parking, I get my chip (I really wish races would start putting these in the packet pickup packages. Once again, it would be one less thing to do on race morning), and set up my transition area. The entire time, I'm freaking the fuck out because it's windy. REALLY windy. And it's NEVER windy in the morning here, but there it is. While I consider it a minor nuisance on a flat bike route, I'm looking at the lake and I'm petrified of the swim.

I warm up, get some photos with Coach, and it's time to get in the corral.

My coach, ladies and gentlemen. LOVE this photo! LOL!

Swim: The horn goes off, and at first it's not bad. 

For the first 400 yards or so the water's not still, but it's not as choppy as I feared, and for once in my life I have GREAT feet to hang on to. Then, a nasty wake from a powerboat hits me from the side and I freak. I sit up, panicked, losing the feet, and actually start to wave a kayak over because I don't think there's any way I can finish this swim. The swells calm down,  I wave her off, and get going again. By now I'm way behind everyone, especially since my wave was the second-to-last to go off.

At this point, the chop is there, and it is FRIGHTENING. I just keep eyeing all the safety boats around, and knowing I can bail out any time helps me to keep going just a little further, just a little further. I hit the final turnaround on the "U"-shaped course to head back to shore, and a kayaker points out a light for me to sight off. Thank GOD, because even WITH something to sight I kept getting pulled waaaaaaaaay over to the right thanks to the chop. I would have otherwise ended up on the coast of Ireland or something.

A GREAT picture considering what an awful swim I had.
I come tearing out of the water. I have no idea what my time is (and thank GOD because if I had SEEN my terrible time that would have tanked me for the entire race), but I know it's Very Not Good. I run by Coach and Dr. Z. and just shout out "CHOPPY!"

I love that the lady in gray on the right is totally throwing shade my way. Like, lady, I KNOW I had a terrible swim.
Swim: 55:25 (OUCH!) 11/11 AG, 73/ Women, 203/207 Overall.  MAJOR ouch - only FOUR people swam slower than me!?!?!?

T1 - So I tear ass into T1, already exhausted from that swim. I do manage to get in and out of there pretty quickly and get off onto my bike.

Myself and the athlete in front of me displaying fine triathlete speed mounting technique. Sigh.
T1: 1:50 - 5/11 AG, 15/ Women, 55/207 Overall - See, TOTALLY a front of the pack athlete! ;-)

Bike:  Ugh. So I get on the bike, look at my Garmin, and my heart rate is SKY HIGH. Like, 170s high. So I just simmer and try to get that puppy down while in granny gear. And that's the story for the next five miles. Most of it WAS a climb (that I had underestimated looking at the elevation profile), but I was definitely tired out from the swim. It SUCKED. I averaged ELEVEN MILES PER HOUR that first half hour while people passed me left and right and my heart rate just wouldn't come down.

I finally came around after getting on the main flat part of the course and was able to start hauling. Well, hauling for me anyway. Passing people back and feeling pretty good. I get to the first aid station, grab a bottle to refill the ol' Aero, and...the top foam part falls in. I say many bad words, come to a stop, and fix everything. Double sigh.

So everything's going okay until I get to the next aid station at mile 28. I swear to God I thought it was an out-and-back course, and there's no turnaround. I get to mile 29, then 30, and now I am FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. I FINALLY figure out that it must be a lollipop course (which it was), but at this point that's a lot more energy just expended. In addition, my stomach is giving up the ghost and I can't put anymore chews down.

On a bright note, at one point I'm playing leapfrog with a woman and crack her shit up at mile 40-ish by announcing, "My crotch and I are SO ready to get off this bike!" as I pass her.

We come back into town and there's HORRIFIC traffic we're having to weave through. I almost get hit at one point. Not only that, they change the course on the way back so that we have to basically go around the block at the end - no way to keep good momentum going. I come in with one of my slowest rides ever. After a bad swim. (Well, the rest of the ride actually went pretty much according to plan, but 56 miles was not enough real estate to make up those first five miles.)

This photo cracks my shit up - my expression perfectly captures how I was feeling about my race.
Bike: 3:36:42 - 9/11 AG, 62/ Women, 186/207 Overall - Ouch again. Sigh.


Well I am in a TERRIBLE headspace at this point. My swim was awful (not to mention the scariest I've ever done), my bike was awful, and now my stomach isn't going to let me put anything down. 

T2 - 1:03, but the "placings" have me all in the BOP which is weird, especially looking at the times - other people with slower transitions are showing as better placed. Huh.


Heading out on the run - I love this picture - I look so FAST.
So the run was changed to a four-loop course a couple days before the race. While I grumbled about it, it WAS a nice way to break it up.

After such a rough first two legs, it was great to have my Cheer Crew yelling up a freakin' STORM when I got started. Stretch stretched out to his full 6'5" glory, put his hand up as high as he could, and yelled "UP HIGH, UP HIGH!" Nearly fell over laughing, especially since I didn't even know he was spectating until that point.

The first loop I'm doing pretty well despite not being able to take anything except water.  Definitely the fastest loop of the day. Unfortunately towards the end of the loop payment is due and I really start bonking. I tell Coach my problem when I start the second loop, and she basically gives me a "Figure it out."

The first thing I have to do is take it down to Zone 2, instead of Zone 3 as planned. Any time I try to run harder than that, I get so nauseated I'm afraid of vomiting. I grab some pretzels and water at the aid station at the far end, which helps a bit, but I'm doing a shit-ton of walking instead of that sweet 9:20 pace I had practiced even on ridiculously big hills in training.

Yes, I became quite sponge-addicted in this race.

I managed to get my shit together a bit better for the third loop - felt faster than the second one. I still sauntered through aid stations though and kept the HR low. I was so happy to get to the downhill at the end and know I only had one loop left to do.

Ever since the Syracuse Marathon in 2012, taking my picture by a speed sign when I'm hurting has become an ongoing joke.
The fourth loop, Stretch actually joins me in my walk-jog for about half of it, which is really sweet of him, especially since his easy pace is like 8 minute miles. At this point I'm just trying to get it done and over with. He leaves me with about 1.5 miles or so to go. Shortly after that, Dr. Z. finds me and escorts me in on my bike. I swear to run the rest of the way if it kills me.

Half a mile or so to go and yes, a 10 minute/mile jog DOES feel like it's going to kill me.

I come through, and as usual collapse in a wheezing heap. And because it wouldn't be a race report without me falling apart at the finish line, here's the collage for y'all:

Run: 2:18:21 - 6/11 AG, not going to manually figure out the rest. Yes, the "auto-tabulated" results ARE screwed up.

Total: 6:51:27 - 9/11 AG (Exactly the same as Tinman. Sigh.), 43/62 Women.

After thoughts:  Well, this was pretty much a shitty race from the start. I have to admit it's been a disappointing season in general, especially after having such an amazing breakthrough season last year. After my THIRD 6:50 Half-Ironman in a row despite training so hard, I'm happy to step away from the distance for a bit and concentrate on Ironman next year.

I'm not saying I won't do Half-Ironmans - they're still my favorite distance - I just need a break from banging my head against the wall trying to execute the race that training shows I have in me. (No, I DON'T think 6:40 at Tinman followed by 6:30 at Big George were unrealistic goals, even in hindsight.)

With that, I was happy to wrap up the triathlon season and go back to my comfort zone - RUNNING!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

2014 First Annual Mutt Strut Race Report

Yes, FINALLY a race report. And no, it's not my Big Georg 70.3 one. Soon, my pretties, soon.

Anyway, animal shelters are "my" cause, so when a flyer for a "Mutt Strut 5K" the local humane society caught my eye, it stuck in my head, especially since it was being held on, yes, my birthday.

I didn't seriously consider doing it though since it would be two weeks out from my PR attempt at the Mohawk Hudson Half Marathon.

However...Dr. Z. decided to go out of town, and after working approximately a bajillion hours Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with more to put in on Sunday, I decided to have some damn fun.  And "some damn fun" around means "racing."

(...and bonus points if you can figure out what I do for a living given those dates.)

So, I didn't have a mutt to strut, and the real thing that pushed me over the edge into deciding to go was a cat. Since, you know, I didn't have a dog to bring. And yes, I had the perfect, or, ahem, PURRfect outfit:

Yes, WITH cat ears of course.
And unfortunately the above is the only photo I have. Dr. Z. wasn't there to take pictures and aside from one photo a woman asked to take, there was nothing. (In fact, one of the reasons I've waited to post this was in hopes that more pictures (or hell, ANY pictures) of the event would show up.

So I roll in and chat with all the shelter girls, who I know. I can tell right away that this is NOT serious at all and there aren't even any bibs or timing. I'm also one of the few people without a dog, although I have a blast playing with all the doggies there.

I originally wasn't going to warm up (NOT taking this serious, SEE), but at the last minute decide to shake out the legs a LIIIIITLE bit and do some quick striders, knee-ups, and butt-kicks so I don't pull a bajillion muscles, tendons and ligaments.

The gun goes off and even with just jogging it in Zone 2 I'm at the front of the pack. Two guys flew way ahead, and I was playing leapfrog with this woman whose dog kept sprinting and then slowing down.

About a mile in, I decided to dig in and push it a bit. I quickly dropped the other girl and spent the next mile and a half working very hard, but never quite going into that brain-melting 5K pain cave.

In the end, despite not pushing over the edge AND having twelve hard miles on my legs from the day before, I finished first Woman and third Overall. My second ever 5K win! Once again, the competition wasn't there, and my pace should NOT have won even a small local 5K, but it was a fun bit of fast, hard running to raise money for a cause that's near and dear to my heart.